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Sole membership motions fall short of request, but show intent


NEW ORLEANS (BP) - Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary approved two motions concerning sole membership during their Oct. 13 meeting. The actions fall short of the request made by Southern Baptist Convention messengers in June 2004 that the seminary adopt sole membership at their "October, 2004, meeting" by amending the seminary's charter. But the language indicates that sole membership will be adopted and that seminary President Chuck Kelley will restate polity and legal concerns to messengers attending the 2005 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Sole membership is a legal mechanism that allows a parent organization to establish its ownership (as sole member of the corporation) of a subordinate entity while setting limitations to the parent entity's control, thereby limiting the legal liability of the parent for the subsidiary. Simply put, it seeks to clarify in legal language that the convention owns all of its entities.

The other five SBC seminaries - Golden Gate, Midwestern, Southeastern, Southern and Southwestern - previously have adopted sole membership, as have the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Annuity Board (now doing business as Guidestone Financial Resources). But New Orleans Seminary representatives have held out, saying they support the convention but believe that sole membership violates Baptist polity and also is incompatible with Louisiana law.

Acting in private during an executive session that lasted one hour and 20 minutes Oct. 13, the seminary's trustees approved by a vote of 35-1 a motion that reads:

"The New Orleans Seminary Board of Trustees move[s] to propose to the Southern Baptist Convention the amendment to our charter requested by the convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2004 regarding sole membership, as outlined by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, with the attached reservations regarding legal and polity concerns and possible minor language adjustments to which the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention would agree. We further move that the New Orleans Seminary President explain the reservations to convention messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee in 2005."